Just pondering a few of the things that became so conventional in programming that we don’t care about them anymore. Nice to reflect upon when considering the shitshow of design decisions in the modern computing stack.

  • Integer representation – two’s complement
  • Floating point – IEEE 754
  • Power-of-two byte/word sizes – There’s other good choices, but 8 bits per byte and 2^N bytes per word is a pretty good one
  • Byte endianness – not universal, but basically settled on little endian for processors and I only foresee it becoming more universal with time. Network protocols are big-endian by default but that’s at least well defined, and not enough of an impediment to matter
  • UTF-8 – You’re going to have a hard time coming up with a better variable-length integer representation that prefers small integers. There’s others that are just as good, or better for some specific purposes, but UTF-8 still has some nice properties.
  • Serial connections and UART’s, whether RS-232 or TTL or whatever. There’s a million little variations but the basic setup is perfectly good for what it does.
  • ELF executable format. Some improvements could be made, I’m sure, but all in all it’s pretty Fine.
  • Paging over segmentation for memory management. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with segmentation, but at least on any 32-bit chip, either you are an embedded system without much memory and don’t need an MMU, or you’re large enough to afford an MMU with paging. It’s still used on 8-bit microcontrollers but basically no popular 32+ bit CPU developed since the VAX has used segmentation.